School of Political, Social and International Studies
University of East Anglia
The diversity of students that this MA unit, 'Issues in the contemporary politics of the Middle East', attracts means that the students are sometimes not familiar with the standard academic assessment, i.e. the academic essay. This can be a hindrance to learning the subject matter and discussing it effectively. The unit was designed to tackle that.
Wikipedia provides an engaging way to learn through active discussion while writing for an international audience. The active discussion is provided through the usual channels of seminars and tutor discussions, but also through dealing with comments on students' work from the wider Wikipedia community. Writing for Wikipedia requires you to meet certain standards such as providing references for information you cite and writing with a neutral point of view (NPOV) style. If you breach these standards you are liable to be criticised or even have your work deleted.
A second benefit of this assessment technique is that it makes students more aware of how pages are produced on Wikipedia and therefore equips them to evaluate what they read in popular arenas. It is important to note that this unit does not involve using Wikipedia as an information source, but rather as a tool for learning soft skills and for assessing the knowledge students have gained from traditional sources.
The average class size for this unit is 11.
There were two parts to the course. First, students were expected to edit a Wikipedia article each week. The article's topic could be chosen by the student, but had to be related to the topic of that week's seminar. The editing process was also a way to ensure that students read in preparation for the seminars.
The second part of the process consisted of students writing a new article for Wikipedia on a topic of their choosing, based around what they had studied in the unit.
Assessment criteria were written up beforehand for students to see. Assessment was carried out by the tutor who could use the edit history of Wikipedia to assess the students' contributions to the Wikipedia pages. In order to account for the time it may take for students to adapt to this, and because students showed obvious improvements in the relevant skills as the course progressed, only 3 of the 8 editing tasks were used to count towards the final mark.